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Wyandanch library abruptly ends public meeting

The Wyandanch Public Library is proposing a separation

The Wyandanch Public Library is proposing a separation from the school district. Credit: Newsday/John Paraskevas

An online meeting that was supposed to be a chance for residents to get information on the Wyandanch public library’s quest to separate from the school district was abruptly ended by the library board president even as residents tried to ask more questions.

The Feb. 23 afternoon Zoom meeting was announced two days prior and was intended to be a "roundtable" to "get input from the Wyandanch community," according to board president Ghenya Grant. The library board voted 3-2 last month to separate from the school district and become a special district library. The process involves state legislation and the library’s three state legislators have said they will not support the move unless the community gets behind it.

Grant and the attorney hired for the process, Edward Pichardo of Manhattan, spoke for about 25 minutes explaining why the library was seeking the separation. Both said that there are "not many" differences between the two types of libraries.

School district libraries account for 31 of the county’s 56 public libraries, said Kevin Verbesey, director of the Suffolk Cooperative Library System. There are four special district libraries in the county, but none were ever school district libraries, he said.

Special district libraries get the same amount of tax revenue, Verbesey said, and in the same time frame. However, a special district library would receive their revenue directly from their municipality — in this case Babylon Town — rather than through the school district.

Library trustees began publicly discussing a separation in July after the school district's state monitor asked the library for documentation in support of an annual $1 million Tax Anticipation Note loan that the library pays back with interest.

Pichardo mentioned "several occasions in recent years" where there have been "administrative hurdles in obtaining the funding" but did not elaborate or say whether he was referring to the loan or to tax revenue. He said Wyandanch wants to remove the school district as an intermediary and "have the funding decided directly by the voters . . . and the Town of Babylon board."

Pichardo went on to say that the move would allow the library to "stabilize its funding" and get a loan and bond through the town for needed building repairs.

Town Supervisor Rich Schaffer said if Wyandanch becomes a special district library, the library would have a public budget vote, as it does now, and there would be no town board vote. He said the town would not provide the library with a tax anticipation note loan and would not bond on their behalf.

There were 23 people — including many non-residents — in the meeting, which was interrupted by technical problems. After about 75 minutes, Grant ended the meeting even though there were unanswered questions in the chat about past loans and how much the separation would cost.

Grant said the board was looking for questions "about the process" and that questions "about the school district . . . or about a TAN" is "something that could possibly be asked at a board meeting" at a later time.

A Zoom public hearing on the issue will take place at 6 p.m. March 1.

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